Monday, February 09, 2009

today: We are all f*cked

In war we are never told how bad it is. The cliche is that the first casualty is truth. We've seen this recently with Mr Regev's pronouncements over Israel's activities in Gaza. Whatever your opinion of what went on, you can't really say that the spokespeople were offering the straight unfiltered facts.

I think the same thing is happening with the Credit Crunch/ Economic Crisis/Depression/Credit Quake, or whatever Bloomberg are calling it this month. I understand how it works. Nobody is allowed to say how bad things really are, and as such they tiptoe around the first domino, petrified they'll be the one that sends the whole lot tumbling. Politicians and people who work in banks and finance are pretty much bound by rules and protocols. They have to be market sensitive in everything they say. So, like Mr Regev admitting there may have been one or two civilian casualties but we are unsure about the numbers, they admit there's a problem but always appear unsure about he numbers. Journalists report the daily information, but none of them really want to put it all together lest they be blamed. Even Evan Davis on his excellent documentary series exploring the causes of it all, ended on an almost patriotic note of definite (if somewhat vague) optimism

I am not fooled. Even when the numbers are obfuscated, they are obviously very very bad.

The other day I had cause to go to my local job-centre. Because I am currently between operations I needed to update my disabled status and get a couple of forms to fill in - God forbid that I, as a qualified and experienced professional, am actually unemployed! I decided to try and insert myself into the appointments system by simply turning up. I figured the combination of ice and snow outside and me hobbling, barely unable to walk, on two walking sticks, would work. Nobody would dare send me away with an appointment card, for fear of me legitimately complaining about how difficult it was for me to come back.

I was stunned by what I saw. The place was packed like Harrods on New Years Day: like some mini Grant Park. Queues and queues of people filled the foyer and spilled into the vestibule. I quickly got behind the scenes, sitting on a chair and waiting for someone to spare me a minute. The job centre is usually a fairly laid back place. The employees tick through a steady stream of 'client' interviews and the like. Often you see them chatting to each other and generally operating at a fairly low level intensity. Only this day people were frantically trying to process the sheer number of people. Ironically, the energy in the place was more akin to an investment bank trading floor.

I mentioned this to the lady who was dealing with me and she concurred that they were understaffed and overworked. "This is the one growth industry", she said.

The real numbers are on the ground. If you can be bothered to correlate all the figures given out daily on the news with anecdotes from friends and acquaintances, and add them up to things like my job-centre experience, you can build up a picture. It's what the politicians and financiers and journalists aren't saying for fear of nudging the domino:

"We are all completely f*cked."

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